This is our story of the rigmarole of getting a Colombia visa for a South African passport. Another story about the irritating visa hassles faced travelling around the world as a South African.
The rubbish search results produced by Google compound the visa hassles. Feeding articles to the top of the search results that are years out of date. With this search the first few sites all have the incorrect embassy address ... the only official looking site is infected with a virus!
We were travelling from Panama to Colombia and concerned about the process and timing for getting a Colombian visa for a South African passport.
After much digging through the Google search results and a few phone calls we had a very diverse range of options. From “no visa required” to “it takes up to 5 working days”.
With the help of a local we found the official Embassy site. Deciphering the Spanish we found the download link to complete the application. The next issue was that there was no way to make the payment online. So a visit to the Colombian Embassy in Panama City was our only option.
With hope, and a few vague doubts, we went to Panama City on the Thursday before our planned travel on the following Tuesday.
We arrived at the Embassy early on the Friday morning … after first going to the wrong address. Cursing Google about their searches that produce meaningless historical results!
Colombian Embassy in Panama
Ushered through to the Consul’s office we met a charming and ultra-helpful consular official. He spoke fluent English and as he'd visited Pietermaritzburg in South Africa we could easily relate. He apologized for the inconvenience we had to go through. Adding that this was the result of South Africa not providing visa free access to Colombian’s visiting South Africa.
So tit for tat!
He further added that visas for South Africans had to be approved in Bogota. So the process went on all day ticking off all the regulatory boxes one by one.
The final result – a visa cost of $134, a whole day wasted and $15 for Uber’s ... just because of some South African Minister not doing his job.
South Africa has the international reputation of a deteriorating and inefficient state. It’s discouraging to have to experience this downward spiralling path.
The Consul appealed to us to approach our government to agree a reciprocal visa arrangement.
Throughout the world people are inconvenienced by government sloth. It is clear that that state employees either don’t care or are incompetent. Whatever ... it’s time it changed.
The Consul at this office is a fine example of the kind of person that gives a country a good reputation. Before you even arrive you have a positive feeling ... and they serve greta coffee!
Are South African embassies like this?